On April 23, Mirant Potomac River, LLC, won two significant court decisions concerning the continued operation of its Potomac River Generating Station (PRGS) in North Old Town Alexandria. But those decisions have had little or no impact on the continuing battle between the City and Mirant over PRGS — a battle with two crucial moments scheduled for this month.
Friday, May 4, is the deadline for the submission of public comments to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regarding actions by the State Air Pollution Control Board relative to several draft orders and permit options. Those comments should be sent to Monica Harvey, VDEQ, at firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to 629 East Main St., P.O. Box 1105, Richmond, VA 23218 by May 4. A link to the VDEQ notice can be found at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/air/permitting/Mirant.html.
The second critical date is Tuesday, May 22. That is when a public hearing will be held at the Holiday Inn, 2460 Eisenhower Ave., Alexandria, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. under the aegis of the Air Pollution Control Board. to receive comments on a comprehensive agreement to regulate all emissions from the PRGS.
Whatever agreement is reached by the three parties — City, Mirant, and DEQ — will govern plant operations pertaining to emissions from July 1, 2007. In a recent news release, DEQ announced that they and the Board were seeking public comments on both the two proposed consent orders and the state operating permits.
The Air Board is also seeking comments on two issues pertaining to the PRGS operations, according to DEQ. They are: "Are intermittent controls allowed as part of the permit and, if not, are they allowed during a phase-in period or in a consent order? Is Mirant's proposed stack merge project prohibited under federal or state law as a disallowed dispersion technique?"
Both orders and the three state operating permits are available on the DEQ Web site at www.deq.virginia.gov, under "What's New at DEQ?"
IN THEIR NEWS RELEASE of April 24, Mirant hailed the two court decisions as enabling "the company's Potomac River Generating Station to continue as an essential source of reliable energy for the Washington, D.C. region." They also stated that PRGS "is in full compliance with all operating permits and applicable environmental laws and regulations."
The rulings came from both the Virginia Supreme Court and the Federal District Court in Alexandria. As noted by Mirant in their release, "In the first case, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the City of Alexandria had improperly used its zoning powers to require the power plant to obtain a special-use permit. The court decision clearly states that Mirant has a 'vested right' to continue operating the plant."
In the federal case, the court ruled that "the 2006 consent decree negotiated by Mirant, Maryland, Virginia and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, would benefit the region and should not be overturned," according to the Mirant release.
Immediately following the release of the court decisions, Mirant issued a notice that they would be increasing generation for the period April 25 through June 21 as a result of planned line outages by Pepco. This is in compliance with a U.S. Department of Energy order to maintain power reliability in the region.
ADDING TO the ongoing drama of Mirant vs. Alexandria, a $1,000 donation from Mirant to the City's Earth Day program was returned by City Manager James K. Hartmann. "While we appreciate the thought behind the donation, given the ongoing litigation between the City and Mirant, we deem it best to return the donation," he said in a letter dated March 27 to Debra Bolton, vice president and assistant general counsel for Mirant.
Bolton noted in her response, "Although there is an appeal pending regarding litigation between the City and Mirant, this litigation has been ongoing for years and the City has accepted donations from Mirant in the past. Mirant Corporation and its subsidiaries have a long history of charitable giving to the communities we serve — both in terms of dollars, in-kind services and volunteer labor."
She concluded by stating, "It is unfortunate that this action has been taken on behalf of the City. We would be interested in knowing if the City has made a decision to no longer accept charitable contributions from Mirant. We would also like to know if this action reflects a policy position of the City Council."
As of May 2 there has been no response from the City, according to Mirant.
Bolton also took U.S. Representative James P. Moran (D-8) to task in an April 23 letter for allegedly misrepresenting facts regarding plant emissions. Concerning a television news story on Mirant's mural project, Moran allegedly stated the PRGS "emits 18 times the maximum allowable health standard."
She pointed out in her letter, "Earlier this year, you made similar statements at three separate hearings held by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment. The fact is that the station is running in compliance with all federal and state environmental standards."
There has been no response thus far to this letter either, according to Tony Bullock, executive vice president, Ogilvy Public Relations, for Mirant.